Poem of the Week | January 27, 2012

This week we’re featuring a poem from our brand new issue, Winter 2011, 34.4. Monica Ferrell is the author of a collection of poems, Beasts for the Chase, which won the Kathryn A. Morton Prize and was published by Sarabande Books, as well as of a novel, The Answer is Always Yes (The Dial Press/Random House), which was named a Borders Original Voices Selection and one of Booklist’s Top Ten Debut Novels of 2008.  Her poems have appeared in The New York Review of Books, The Paris Review, Tin House, Slate, and many other journals and anthologies.  A former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and “Discovery”/The Nation prizewinner, she directs the creative writing program at Purchase College and lives in Brooklyn.

Author’s Note:

These five poems are drawn from my second manuscript, which takes for its presiding obsessions the topics of love and sex.  To my mind, the manuscript picks up where my first book left off.  Many saw in Beasts for the Chase a record of the invention of the self, cast in the form of an odyssey or quest.  Once the self has been invented–has been individuated, has become one out of nothing–then the question of forming a union with the other arises.  My hope is that, given how restrictive in scope the thematic concerns of this manuscript are, the poems embody a wild diversity of perspective, voice, and style so that they can surprise rather than stultify a reader.  In connection with “Planet” (though in a sense all of these poems as well), I want to point out the etymology of the title, which comes from the Greek verb to wander, a derivation I first learned when I read about Martin Luther’s sixteenth century complaint, “They are trying to make me into a fixed star.  But I am an irregular planet.”  The notion of the planet as wanderer has haunted me ever since.


You’re alive.  You stumble from the spaceship’s hull
Testing your radio…it gives a promising fuzz,
But the mother-craft does not return your call.
So you’re forced to find food and water,


Though the food here is green, the water purple.
Furtively you try them, one night, cursing,
Ravenous, on a hillock, under pale, circling moons—
Sweetness of daffodils, water crisp as dimes.


Still you’re searching some key thing;
Minerals?  Fuel?  At the time you like to call midnight,
Long spokes of smoke rise from mountain pools
And when the violet sun gashes you awake


You see how everyone on earth is retreating from you
The way starfish slide beneath soft, repeated waves.
What a distant country is human touch; and good riddance.
Scrambling over the cliffs of your new planet,


Strange but not unpleasant, with angular black rocks,
Periodically you may gasp, checking over a shoulder
But then you’ll recall there is no one else here,
No one else in this world, and carry on with your roving.